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1. Visual impact and the amount of traffic to be generated are among the issues that should be considered when assessing how new development impacts on the openness of the green belt. A whole new section of the guidance on green belt identifies a number of matters that may need to be taken into account when assessing openness. These include the visual impact of a development, its duration and remediability, and the degree of activity, such as traffic, that would be generated. Guidance is also provided on the National Planning Policy Framework’s (NPPF's) requirement for "compensatory improvements" to be made when releasing green belt land for development.
2. The new guidance details the evidence needed to demonstrate a site's deliverability so that it can be included in a local authority’s five-year housing and supply. In a new section on housing supply and delivery, the guidance says the evidence needed to demonstrate the required "deliverability" of such sites could include "firm progress" towards submission of an application or with site assessment work. It could also include details of the current planning status, such as how much progress has been made towards approval of reserved matters. A further suggestion is providing "clear" and "relevant" information on site viability, ownership constraints or infrastructure provision, such as participation in bids for infrastructure funding. The guidance also includes new details on the housing delivery test and sets out acceptable evidence that sites are "developable" and can be identified to accommodate housing beyond a five year period.
3. It includes new advice on how planners can assess when land should be "reallocated for a more deliverable use". The PPG now includes a section on “effective use of land”. This says that, "when considering whether there is a realistic prospect of an allocated site being developed for its intended use", planners can take into account factors such as: • the length of time since the site was allocated in the development plan; • the planning history of the site including any planning applications or preapplication enquiries; • whether there is evidence that the site has been actively marketed for its intended use for a reasonable period, and at a realistic price; • and whether there are any changes of circumstance that mean that take-up of the site for its intended use is now unlikely." Chris Marsh, senior planner at consultants Evans Jones, said this update was "to some extent a reintroduction of the revoked paragraph 22 of the NPPF, which warned against the long-term protection of allocated employment sites where these showed very little sign of coming forward". "The obvious pressure for housebuilding, changing national economic profile and age of many authorities’ development plans are such that this much-needed toolkit for developers is welcomed," he said.
4. New advice on how to plan for high density housing. The same section on effective use of land says that a "range of considerations should be taken into account in establishing appropriate densities on a site or in a particular area". Tools that can assist with this include: "accessibility measures" such as distances and travel times to key facilities, including public transport stops or hubs, and "taking into consideration service capacity and frequencies and destinations served".
5. Plan-makers should consider constraints such as green belt and other protected areas when assessing the availability of new housing and employment sites. An update to the PPG section on housing and economic land availability assessment includes new wording on how planners should consider constraints, such as the green belt, in assessing the suitability of sites and broad locations for development. It says that assessments "should reflect the policies in footnote 6 of the National Planning Policy Framework, which sets out the areas where the framework would provide strong reasons for restricting the overall scale, type or distribution of development in the plan area (such as the green belt and other protected areas)". Roland Bolton, a senior director at consultancy DLP Planning, expressed "serious concern" that the new wording could provide councils with stronger reasons for restricting the scale of new development.
6. Where a council cannot identify enough sites to meet local housing need, they should "establish how needs might be met in adjoining areas through the process of preparing statements of common ground, and in accordance with the duty to cooperate". If following this process, needs still cannot be met then the authority will have to "demonstrate the reasons why as part of the plan examination", says the same section on housing and economic land availability assessment. Bolton said the impact of the new statements of common ground, which aim to strengthen the duty to cooperate, could be "rendered toothless" in light of this advice because it would allow plans to progress to examination where agreements cannot be reached as long as they are supported by evidence that cooperation was not forthcoming.
7. Local authorities can update specific policies within plans "on an individual basis". An update to the plan-making section of the PPG says that authorities "can review specific policies on an individual basis". Such updates "must follow the plan-making procedure; including preparation, publication, and examination by the Planning Inspectorate on behalf of the Secretary of State," it says.
8. Blanket planning policies restricting housing development in some types of rural settlement "will need to be supported by robust evidence". A new section of the guidance on the "housing needs of different groups" advises authorities how they should "identify and plan for the housing needs of particular groups of people", including students, self-builders, those living in rural areas and those using private rented sector homes. It includes advice on how planning policies can "support sustainable rural communities". The guidance says that a "wide range of settlements can play a role in delivering sustainable development in rural areas, so blanket policies restricting housing development in some types of settlement will need to be supported by robust evidence of their appropriateness".
9. Councils should collaborate with neighbouring authorities across market areas to assess the need and allocate sites for new logistics facilities. An updated section on housing and economic needs assessment states that the logistics industry "plays a critical role in enabling an efficient, sustainable and effective supply of goods for consumers and businesses, as well as contributing to local employment opportunities". It "has distinct locational requirements that need to be considered in formulating planning policies" that are separate "from those relating to general industrial land", it goes on to say. Any "strategic" logistics facilities that serve national or regional markets "are likely to require significant amounts of land, good access to strategic transport networks, sufficient power capacity and access to appropriately skilled local labour".
10. Revised guidance on planning for the natural environment sets out fresh details on how planners can implement "net environmental gain" requirements when assessing development proposals, including new advice on protecting wildlife. It says that biodiversity net gain "does not override the protection for designated sites, protected or priority species and irreplaceable or priority habitats" set out in the NPPF. "Local planning authorities need to ensure that habitat improvement will be a genuine additional benefit, and go further than measures already required to implement a compensation strategy," it adds.